Documentation Formats


Researchers commonly begin a project by studying past work in the area and deriving relevant information and ideas from their predecessors.  This caters to the expansion of human knowledge.  It is a custom that while presenting their work, researchers acknowledge their debts to predecessors by carefully documenting each source, so that earlier contributions receive appropriate credit.

Whenever a researcher draws on another work, you must also document your source by indicating what you borrowed and where you borrowed it from.  (see also: Plagiarism)
Many disciplines have their own documentation systems.  Documentation styles differ according to discipline because they are shaped by the kind of research and scholarship undertaken.  For example, in the sciences, where timelines of research is crucial, the date of publication is usually given prominence.  Thus in the style recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA), a typical citation includes the date of publication as well as abbreviation p. before the page number.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers style is widely used in the humanities, where most important scholarship remains relevant for a substantial period, publication date receive less attention (they are omitted in the parenthetical reference but always stated in the works-cited list).

In an entry in an APA-style works-cited list, the date (in parenthesis) immediately follows the name of author (whose first name written only as an initial), just the first word of the title is capitalized, and the publisher’s full name is provided.  In APA style the first line of the entry is intended: second and subsequent lines are flush with the left margin
In contrast in a MLA style entry, the authors name appears as given in the work, every important word of the title is capitalized, the publishers name is shortened, and the publication date is placed at the end.  The first line of the entry is flush with the left margin, and second and subsequent lines are indented.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers provide a comprehensive picture of the customs of scholars who records the research work and the exact way of documentation of research.  The research report or assignment requires us to go beyond our personal knowledge and experiences.  Here we work to explore an idea, probe an issue, solve a problem or make an argument that compels us to turn to outside resources for reference.  The findings and conclusions of such an inquiry appear in the research paper.  The research paper or report generally based on primary resources, secondary resources, or a combination of the two.

Primary research is the study of a subject through firsthand observation and investigation such as analyzing a literary or historical text, a film or performance; conducting a survey or an interview; carrying out a laboratory experiment.  Primary source includes statistical data, historical documents and works of literature or art.

Secondary Research is the examination of studies that other researchers have made of a subject.  Examples of secondary sources are books and articles about political issues, historical events, scientific debates etc..

MLA Style

In MLA style, you acknowledge referred sources by giving brief parenthetical citations in the text to an alphabetical list of works that appears at the end of the paper.  The parenthetical citation that concludes the following sentence is a typical example of MLA style:

Ancient writers attributed the invention of the monochord to Pythagores, who lived in the sixth century BC (Marcuse 197).

The citation (Marcuse 197) tells readers that the information in the sentence was derived from page 197 of a work by an author named Marcuse.  If readers want more information about this particular source, they can turn to the works-cited list, where, under the name of Marcuse, they would find the following information:

Marcuse, Sibyl. A survey of Musical Instruments. New york: Harper, 1975.

This entry states that, the works author is Sibyl Marcuse and its title is A Survey of Musical Instruments.  The remaining information relates in shortened form, that the was published in New York City by Harper and Row in 1975.

If the authors name is mentioned in the text, only the page number appears in the citation: ‘(197)’.  If more than on work by the same author is in the list of works cited, a shortened version of the title is given: ‘(Marcuse, Survey 197).

The Bibliography

Although the list of works cited (Bibliography or Literature Cited) at the end of the paper or book, we have to draft the section in advance so that we can ascertain what information we have to give in parenthetical references. For example, we may have to include shortened titles if we cite two or more works of the same author, and we have to add initials or first names if two of the cited authors have the same last name.

This List or Bibliography contains all the works that a researcher/ scholar cited in his text.  The list simplifies the documentation by permitting the writer to make only brief references to these works in the text.  Some synonyms of the term Bibliography used in other occasions are Annotated Bibliography, Works Consulted, or Selected Bibliography. An Annotated Bibliography contains descriptive or evaluative comments on the sources. The title Works Consulted indicates that the list is not confined to works cited in the paper.

Where to place a Bibliography?

The Bibliography or Works Cited List usually appears at the end of the work.  Begin the list on a new page and number each page, continuing the page numbers of the text. As MLA Style, the page number appears in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch below the top and flush with the right margin   Center the title Works Cited or Bibliography an inch from the top of the page. Double-space between the title and the first entry. Begin each entry flush with the left margin: if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines one-half inch from the left margin.  Double-space the entire list, both between and within entries.

Arrangement of Entries

In general alphabetize entries in the list of works cited by the authors last name, using the letter-by-letter system.  In this system, the alphabetical order of names is determined by the letters before the commas that separate last name and first names.  Spaces and other punctuation marks are ignored.  If tow or more entries citing coauthors begin with the same name, alphabetize by the last names of the second authors listed.

If the authors name is unknown, alphabetize by the title, ignoring any definite or indefinite articles at the initial point.  For example, An Encyclopaedia of the Latin American Novel would be alphabetized under e rather than a.  An alphabetical listing makes it easier for the reader to find an entry corresponding to a citation in the text.

MLA Style Guide

Book by a Single Author/Editor

One of the most common items in students work-cited list is the entry for a book by a single author or editor.  Such an entry has three main divisions.
Authors name. Title of the book. Publication information.
(Here after entering the name of author put a full stop and space.  Then the title underlined and full stop and space. Then publication information like, place of publication, then colon, space, shortened name of publisher, comma year of publication and full stop.)


Wilson, Frank. The Hand: How its use shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture. New York: Pantheon, 1998.

Name of Author: In this example, the authors name Frank Wilson is reversed for alphabetizing, adding a comma after the last name.  Give the name appears as in the title page of the document. Never abbreviate a name given in full. But use initials if the title page does.  In general omit titles like Sir, Rev. etc.., affiliations and degrees like SJ, Ph.D, etc.. that precedes or follows names.  A suffix is added, if that is an essential part of the name  like Jr. or a roman numeral  appears after the given name, preceded by a comma.
Title: Whenever to cite the title of a published work in the research paper, take the title information from the title page, not from the cover or from running head or from spine.  Do not reproduce any unusual typographic characteristics, such as special capitalization or lowercasing of letters.  The rules for capitalizing titles are strict.  In both titles and subtitles, capitalize the first words, the last words, and all principal words.  Therefore capitalize the following parts of a speech:

Nouns (e.g., flowers and Europe as in The Flowers of Europe)

Pronoun (e.g., our as in Save Our Children, that as in The Mouse That Roared))

Verbs (e.g., watches as in America Watches Television, is as in What Is Literature)

Adjectives (e.g., ugly as in The Ugly Duckling, that as in Who Said That Phrase?)

Adverbs (e.g., slightly as in Only Slightly Corrupt, down as in Go Down, Moses)

Subordinating conjunctions (e.g., after, although, as if, as soon as, because, before, if,   that, unless, when, where, while)

Do not capitalize the following parts of speech when they fall in the middle of a title.

Articles (a, an, the)

Propositions (e.g., against, between, in, of, to, as etc..)

Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet etc.)

The ‘to’ in infinitives (as in How to Play Chess)

In general underline the title of works published independently (for works published as part of larger works, use quotation marks.)  Titles to be underlined include the names of books, plays, long poems published as books, pamphlets, periodicals, films, radio and TV programs, operas, musical compositions etc.. In the above example, the underline is not broken between words.

The convention of underlining and quotation mark to indicate title does not apply to the names of sacred works (including all versions of Bible); of laws, acts and similar political documents, of series, societies, buildings, and monuments; and of conferences, seminars, and courses. These all terms appear without underlining or quotation marks.

If the book has a subtitle, put a colon after the main title,, unless the main title ends in a question mark or an exclamation mark or dash.

Publication Information

In general give the city of publication, shortened name of publisher, and year of publication.  Care should be taken to collect these information directly from the book and not from a bibliography or library catalog.  The publishers name that appears on the title page is generally the name to cite. Any publication information not available from the title page can usually found on the back of the title page or particularly in books published outside the United States, on a page at the back of the book. Use a colon between the place of publication and name of publisher and a comma between the publisher and year of publication.  If several cities are listed in the book, give only the first.  If the name of the city is unfamiliar to users, an abbreviation of the name of the country could be added after the name of the city.


Manchester, Eng.
Sherbrooke, QC

Sometimes additional information may be required in the reference list.  The following list shows most of the possible components of a book entry and the order in which they are normally arranged:

Authors Name

Title of a part of the book

Title of the book

Name of the editor, translator, or compiler

Edition used

Number(s) of the Volume(s) used

Name of the series

Place of Publication, Name of Publisher, Year of Publication

Page numbers

Supplementary bibliographic information

An Anthology or a Compilation

To cite an anthology or a compilation that was edited or compiled by someone whose name appears on the title page, begin your entry with the name of the editor or compiler, followed by a coma and the abbreviation ed. or comp.


Lopate, Philip, ed. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present.  New York: Anchor-Doubleday, 1994.

Weisser, Susan Ostrov, ed. Women and Romance: A Reader. New York: New York UP, 2001.

Book by Multiple Authors/Editors

To cite a book by two or three authors, give their names in the same order as on the title page.  Reverse only the name of the first author, add a comma, and give the other name or names of authors in normal form.  Place a full stop after the last authors name.  Even if the authors have the same last names, state each name in full (e.g., Durant, Will and Ariel Durant).  If the persons listed on the title page are editors, translators, or compilers, place a comma, (not full stop) after the final name, and add the appropriate abbreviations (like eds. (for editors), trans. (for translators), or comps. (for compilers).


Eggins, Suzanne, and Diane Slade. Analysing Casual Conversation. London:  Cassell, 1997.

Rabkin, Eric S., Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. No place Else:

Explorations in Utopian and Dystopian Fiction. Carbondale: Southern   Illinois UP, 1983.

If MORE THAN three persons authored/edited the book, only the first name (reversed) should appear, followed by a comma and ‘et al.’

Second Work by Same Author

If an author or authors have their names on more than one text, check to see if the authorship of both texts is identical. If, and only if, the authors are in fact identical, then  the name of author for the second entry should be replaced with three hyphens and  followed by a full stop and the title. If the person named edited, translated or compiled the book, place a comma and after the three hyphens, and write the appropriate abbreviation before giving the title.

Hall, Stuart. Cold, Comfort, Farm. New Socialist Nov. 1985: 10-12.

Thatcherism: A New Stage? Marxism Today Feb. 1980: 22-27.

Hall, Stuart, et al. Policing the Crisis. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1979.

Corporate Authorship

A corporate author can be a commission, an association, a committee, etc. Cite the book by the corporate author, even if the corporate author is the publisher.

American Medical Association. The American Medical Association Encyclopedia
of Medicine.  Ed. Charles B. Claymean. New York: Random, 1989.

No Author Identified (Anonymous Work)

If a book has no authors name on the title page, then the document is alphabetized by the first word of its title, excluding definite or indefinite articles.  If two or more anonymous works have the same title, find another publication information that will distinguish one book from the other, and add it to their parenthetical references.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

New York Public Library American History Desk Reference. New York: Macmillan, 1997.